Between illicit emulation and legitimate rereleases, retro gaming is a popular niche nowadays. As it pertains to Game Boy Color, games such as R-Type, Super Mario Bros., and Crystalis have made significant impressions years after their original debuts. Thanks to Midway's ownership of Atari's classics, you can notch one more retro release on the GBC's bedpost - the inner-tube racer Toobin'.
In the arcade version of Toobin', you paddled down various rivers competing against either a computer or human opponent for the glory of first place. There were separate buttons for controlling your tuber's left and right hands, and the game required excellent hand-eye coordination. The Game Boy Color release is similar, except the opponents are gone, and there's only one button to paddle with. Down an array of 27 unique rivers, you'll turn and wriggle your way around dangerous crabs, avoid shotgun-toting hillbillies, and evade anything that doesn't resemble a soda can, patches, or a beach ball. Soda cans are your weapons to throw at obstacles, while patches offer collision recovery, and beach balls provide limited invincibility. In and of itself, Toobin' is an interesting game that is a cross between a surfing game and a shooter.
Unfortunately, it's the juxtaposition of shooter-style gameplay and unvaried river-rafting that eventually yields boredom. One can only progress so far before avoiding repetitious obstacles and tossing soda becomes excruciating. Furthermore, since the controls are simplified, steering is more difficult than it should be, and, unlike the arcade game, you can't retrace your steps. If you miss a gate or get stuck, powering off the system is your only option. Hit detection is also suspect, as sometimes you can float over a dangerous object with no effect, or you'll snag on objects the raft obviously isn't touching. The removal of the game's competition factor also limits the inherent replay value.
Unlike the muddled gameplay, Toobin's visuals are quite appealing and suited to the Game Boy Color's trademark tinge. With undulating waves, twirling whirlpools, and angry cave men, the game's backgrounds are full of variety and detail. Bif, the main character, has a wide selection of riotous paddling and swimming animations. Sea life bobs up and down in the water, soda cans stick up in the hope that you'll snag them, and riverside natives do their stone-throwing best to deflate you. The game doesn't look arcade perfect, but Digital Eclipse has done an adequate job regardless. The sound is none too shabby either. By no means can the soundtrack compare to Nintendo or Konami's recent offerings, but the rump-jumping music and crisp sound effects serve the game well.
Weighing the facts, Toobin' is a game that has to be sampled before purchase. Some will be drawn to the quirky gameplay and find it an inviting skills-type game, overlooking the game's notable flaws. Others though, especially those familiar with the arcade game, may find Toobin's innovative ideas buried under a sea of unforgiving control and limited replay value. The loss of the competitive duel feature is unfortunate as well.